For Steve Hughes, hauling a mattress up a set of stairs is quite literally a labour of love and there's no shortage of either on Chestnut Street in Halifax.

Back from Ontario, Steve's daughter Ashlyn and her friend Sophie are settling in for another year at Dalhousie University.

Even with the pandemic forcing most classes online, continuing their studies from that province wasn't really an option.

"At least here I have my classmates who I'm good friends with in my program, and my roommates," said Ashlyn Hughes. "And I really like the city, so I wanted to move."

Steve Hughes says Nova Scotia has done a "great job of containing the pandemic."

"She's probably safer here than Ontario," he said.

It's a similar story all over the city, with rented trucks changing hands as fast as they can be signed out.

Campuses themselves are still largely empty, as the schools prepare for a year unlike any other.

"It's going to be very different, but we're going to try to make it the same experience as possible," said Jad Ghiz, the Dalhousie Student Union vice-president of student life.

Among other things, Ghiz says that means larger events are being broken down into smaller ones to comply with public health orders

In the meantime, he's offering this advice to students.

"Sit tight, relax," Ghiz said. "It might be different, but it's still going to be just as good."

Sophie Hughes thinks the limited social aspects will be challenging.

"I met all of my roommates through my classes," she said. "So, I just feel bad for people who aren't going to be able to get that opportunity to meet new people through their classes."